Educational Tours and class trips to Civil War Battlefields
Part I: Atlanta 1864 and General Billy Sherman: Terrorist or Savior?
Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln”, starring Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, was a long time coming. Period movies bring history and historical figures back to life, just as we of GO Educational Tours achieve when educating our student group tours. We may be biased as a Civil War enthusiasts, but the 150th anniversary of each battle fought during the war is ongoing, and we are currently organizing student tour groups for trips to several Civil War sites, including viewing some live battle reenactments. Click here for a schedule of upcoming Civil War battle reenactments, and educational trips for student groups to Atlanta/Chattanooga, Charleston, and others.
Chattanooga, Tennessee: The Union’s Launch Pad for its Invasion of Georgia
By 1864, the country had been awash in blood for three years, and after 350,000 casualties to that point, the war seemed as if it would never end. Support for the war by northern citizens was waning, there had been draft riots in New York City in July of 1863, northern newspapers mocked Lincoln with unflattering caricatures in cartoons, and Lincoln’s former head of the Union Army, Gen. George McClellan, was running against him for presidency. Lincoln had fired McClellan, one of five generals he replaced, two months after the Battle of Antietam for failing to pursue Lee and finish him.
Lincoln’s relationship with McClellan was strained from the outset. One time, Lincoln went to visit McClellan at a house where he was staying, and arriving early, Lincoln waited for McClellan in the living room. When McClellan arrived, he glanced at Lincoln in silence and walked right past Lincoln, up the stairs to his bedroom. After fifteen minutes, Lincoln sent a staff member to check on McClellan, who returned to tell Lincoln that the general had gone to sleep. The presidential election was approaching, his opponent was his former commander George McClellan, and Lincoln needed a big victory on the battlefield or he may lose office.
Personalities played a pivotal role in how the war unfolded, and much can be learned about combat leadership during the Civil War that can be relevant to leadership in private and public sector organizations in modern times. During our student group tours of Civil War battlefields, or sites embroiled in the conflict such as Atlanta and Charleston, we present both Northern and Southern perspectives on the war, and delve into how leaders’ personalities played an important role in the war’s outcome. Offering detailed anecdotes during student tours of Civil War Battlefields or Atlanta, Charleston, or Chattanooga can enliven the discussion and put a human face on history, making the learning experience more indelible.
Although the Confederate Army under General Robert E. Lee had dominated in the war’s Eastern Theater, General Ulysses S. Grant had quietly been winning in the Western Theater, particularly in Tennessee, which did not receive as much press back East because it was further away from more populous Eastern cities. East Coast newspaper readers did not care so much about what was going on in Tennessee, and its strategic importance was not appreciated. Much was at stake, however. Controlling the Tennessee River and rail routes would inflate the impact of the Naval blockade off the east coast, choking off southern supplies.
In October and November of 1863, Confederates and Yankees fought a series of battles called “The Chattanooga Campaign”, each side jockeying for position around the area. Union forces had retreated to the Chattanooga area after being defeated badly at Chickamauga, but Union supplies were choked off by Confederates who held the surrounding area. Within days of Grant’s arrival in October, the situation began to change dramatically. Federal troops opened a supply route, nicknamed the “Cracker Line,” from Bridgeport, Alabama. Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, arrived from Vicksburg, MS, with 20,000 men in mid-November.
To be continued in Part II…Sherman, like Grant, was an odd character and an unlikely leader
Interested in joining us during the 150th reunion of the Civil War to celebrate Lincoln’s service to our country? Some of our Civil War related destinations for middle and high school student group tours are Gettysburg, PA and Antietam, MD (combined with a Washington, DC trip), Atlanta, GA (combined with Chattanooga, TN), and Charleston, SC. If there is another Civil War destination of interest, we also customize tours as requested.
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